I have 79 airline boarding passes so far this year. On average, I boarded an airliner once every 4 days.
Schlepping bags at airports, weight-lifting bags into overhead bins, packing and unpacking bags, losing bags. Every 4 days.
Being woken up from jet lag to be told that we are cruising at 31,000 feet (so what??) and that I should relax (you woke me up!) in my 35-inch chair for 14 hours (hospital beds are more comfortable!).
I hate airliners.
I never wanted to be an airline pilot. I wanted to fly because of books and movies like American Aces, Dam Busters, The High and The Mighty, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, High Road to China, Baa Baa Black Sheep. I read Saburo Sakai’s Samurai! every year.
Childhood dreams were about snap rolls, gunnery passes, split-S’s. (Meynard’s aerobatic course has made those dreams come true.)
I made up REAL MAN pilot jokes: Yokes are for oxen, REAL MEN pilots yank on their joysticks 😛 Kerosene is for cooking, REAL MEN pilots sniff avgas in the morning. Tricycles are for kids, REAL MEN pilots drag their tails… . Har-har, snicker-snicker.
And of course, REAL MEN fly propeller airplanes, while
Other than Airport,where a man exploded in the bathroom of Dean Martin’s Boeing 707, there have been no serious jetliner movies. But John Wayne flew a DC-6 with round engines and propellers, Harrison Ford dragged his tail on Beavers, and John Travolta wears big chunky REAL MAN Breitlings.
Unfortunately, REAL MAN pilots tend to die earlier than airline pilots. Hmm.
So there were no more Twelve O’clock High pilots by the 1960s, when I was a boy. I began to look for heroes among the only pilots around.
My Uncle Pat was an airline pilot — 30+ years with Philippine Airlines, 30,000 hours. Stearmans to DC-8s. I used to stare at his hands in awe. Hands that flew jets to Amsterdam, Karachi, Rome.
Sadly, he died in a bizarre accident after retirement — slipped and fell from a roof he was repairing in the rain. After 30,000 hours of accident-free flight.
His eldest son also earned over 30,000 hours at PAL, capping his career in B747-400s before being axed in the bloody pilots’ strike of 1998. For a while after that he drove a bus in Los Angeles.
In 1978, Uncle Pat’s youngest son, my cousin Rico, soloed in PAL Aviation School’s RP-C1051, a brand new Cessna 152 II then.
Rico is still flying as a Captain at United Airlines.
In an amazing coincidence, I soloed in the same RP-C1051, 25 years later.
By then, RP-C1051 was a tired airframe at Omni Aviation at Clark Field. (Then 4 years later my son Carlo soloed in the same airplane too, and also at Omni Aviation. The circle starts again.)
The President of Omni Aviation, Capt. Ben Hur Gomez, is a contemporary of my Uncle Pat at PAL.
Ben was at PAL 35 years, 35,000 hours. He was one of the sharpest leaders in the pilots’ labor union.
My Uncle Pat, then V.P. Flight Operations, convinced Ben to join him on the management side as head of Flight Operations – Domestic.
After his own retirement, Ben Hur confounded everyone by digging up a grass airstrip from under two meters of fresh volcanic lahar at Clark Field.
He hoodwinked co-investors into founding Omni Aviation, a flying school.
Now one of the biggest and most successful flying schools in the country, Omni Aviation is where I learned to fly.
But it wasn’t Ben’s fault that I went from day dreaming to flying. For that, all you stressed out flight instructors, frustrated air traffic controllers and conflicted Airbus drivers can blame a REAL MAN pilot.
Who happens to be an airline pilot.
Errata: Wrote here that my cousin Rico retired from United. He emailed me last night and it turns out he is still flying for the airline! Geez. My mistake, apologies to all.
Posted from Bangkok, December 4, 2008